Day 3: Front Royal/Cedarville, VA (79.5 miles)

(First things first: as promised a picture of the hill Gussie’s folks’ house sits on:)

Yesterday wound up being a good day in many ways. As I said, it was shorter ride and done by 1 p.m., giving me the opportunity to get more rest. In the evening, Gussie made a great salmon and pasta dinner for me, her, and her mom (the proteins and the carbs were much appreciated) and then I was treated to an impromptu visit from Melissa Levy who I hadn’t seen in years and was fortuitously not far away. We were all able to have dinner out on the deck because the temperature had dropped significantly. So, the second day ended on a very relaxing note and it had been a confidence builder in my ability to finish the trip.

And so today I got an early start and it was much cooler weather as I headed out. Looking at the map I had, I made a plan to stop in Madison, as it appeared to be about 30 miles away and would make a good place for a first stage stop. The terrain heading up US-29 was relativey easy to tackle, composed mostly of long gradual inclines and equally long downhills. When I got to Madison, I got there in only 2 hours and 20 minutes and was ready to stop. And so I had “Second Breakfast” there, gorging on more breakfast carbs and proteins. While I was there, I checked to see how far I’d traveled, and the map program on my phone said that I’d traveled only 19 miles. I was deflated. I guess I hadn’t been making that great of time after all. Looking ahead at the map, I knew the next stop was about 20 miles away so I figured that following that, the trip would be about 28 miles.

The second stage after Madison was wonderful. The same rolling hills but this time running along side the mountains of the Shenandoah. The weather was perfect: partly cloudy, letting sunshine through but not bearing down on me. I was able to make pretty good time along this road and take some wonderful pictures. It turns out that this road (N Blue Ridge Turnpike) runs right past Joe Eldridge’s cabin where the UMSA has its retreat every fall. In fact, I’ve been on this road many times, only now I was approaching it from a different direction.

The scenery alongside this road is so wonderful, I found myself stopping a lot to take pictures. At the end of this road is the town of Sperryville, Virginia where I made my second stop. (In the town of Sperryville is a United Methodist Church that but for the color scheme looks so much like the church in Center Brunswick, NY I grew up in that I knew it had to be Methodist the first time I saw it years ago.) I bought some food and drink from the local store and sat under a tree down near the river for about an hour, resting up and fueling up.

From Sperryville, I headed east on US-522/211. This road was also familiar as it is the way we come from D.C. to Joe’s, but it was also more wide open than the roads I’d been on. And the clouds had pretty much vanished and the sun was bearing down pretty hard. I turned north on 522 toward Front Royal. The signs said it was only 15 miles away so I was feeling pretty good. But then suddenly, I could feel my strength begin to flag. A few miles down the road in the town of Flint Hill I saw a Methodist Church on the left side of the road with a shady front stoop. So I pulled over and sat in the shade for about 20 minutes. I headed off down the road, but was not feeling much better. My legs were just so tired and I was having to bike in progressively lower gears.

I wound up stopping at yet another Methodist church down the road and sat for about half an hour. I thought I might actually run into some Methodists and maybe get some water. I knew that Front Royal was about 6 miles away and knew it was on the Shenandoah, so I figured that it would be mostly downhill to the river. As I pulled away to get back on the road, I said, “Logically it has to be downhill from here and logic is never wrong.”

Famous last words. Right around the corner I noticed an incline. Well, I was feeling a little refreshed so I pedaled up (albeit in a pretty low gear). I saw a little roadside store a bit ahead and stopped there to buy some water and Gatorade. The proprietor asked me where I was coming from and when I said, “Charlottesville” he was surprised. He said, “Well, don’t worry”, it’s only a mile and a half more uphill.” Knowing how slowly the miles had been going I started to deflate a little, when he continued, “After that it’s all downhill all the way.” Hearing that was really encouraging. I bike up a mile and a half 3% grade every day to work so all I had to do was remind myself of that and commit to it. This turned out to be a 5% grade and a 500 foot climb. (See elevation chart below.) When I got to the top of the hill there was a wonderful sign saying that the next four miles were downhill. It was wonderful.

By the time I got into Front Royal, my legs were rested up and I was able to bike the next few miles across the Shenandoah to my hotel with little problem.

View from my hotel room

Once I mapped out the route on ( I realized that the first leg of the journey was in fact 29 miles. So the reason I was tired was that I had actually traveled ten miles further than I’d thought. Today was by far the longest segment of the trip at 79.5 miles, but compared to that, tomorrow’s 51 miles or so should be a fair amount easier.